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Law Cannabis for Veterans

momofthegoons

Vapor Accessory Addict
Staff member
Federal: House Bill Introduced to Expand Veterans’ Access to Medical Marijuana

Update: HR 1820 has been referred to committee.

Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), along with five co-sponsors, has reintroduced H.R. 1820, the Veterans Equal Access Act, which expands medical cannabis access to eligible military veterans.


Presently, V.A. doctors are forbidden from providing the paperwork necessary to complete a recommendation, thus forcing military veterans to seek the advice of a private, out-of-network physician. Passage of H.R. 1820 lifts this prohibition.


Last year, majorities in both the US House and Senate voted to include similar language as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. However, Republicans sitting on the House Appropriations Committee elected to remove the language from the bill during a concurrence vote. Lawmakers must stop playing politics with veterans’ health and pass H.R. 1820.


Veterans are increasingly turning to medical cannabis as an effective alternative to opioids and other conventional medications. A retrospective review of patients' symptoms published in 2014 in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reported a greater than 75 percent reduction CAPS (Clinician Administered Posttraumatic Scale) symptom scores following cannabis therapy.


Our veterans deserve the option to legally access a botanical product that is objectively safer than the litany of pharmaceutical drugs it could replace.


There is a link at the end of the article to enter your information and submit it to urge your lawmakers to support H.T. 1820, the Veterans Equal Access Act. Find your local officials in the link below.

Action Alert List - Find Your Elected Officials
 

momofthegoons

Vapor Accessory Addict
Staff member
Law Would Force Feds to Let Veterans Get Medical Marijuana

New legislation would force the federal government to allow veterans to obtain medical marijuana in states, such as California, where it's legal.

The amendment to force the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to make cannabis available to veterans who need it was recently approved by the Senate's Appropriations Committee on a 24-to-7 vote. The department would be prohibited from interfering with a veteran's ability to obtain weed, and from blocking health care providers from giving pot to veterans where it's legal, according to language attached to a military appropriations bill.

"The amendment ensures that veterans have equal access to all of the medical options available in their local community, to include medical marijuana in states where it is legal," according to a statement from the office of co-author Steve Daines, a Montana Republican.

Clearing the VA's blockade of medical marijuana has been attempted before. In 2015, military spending legislation supported by Southern California U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher would have allowed Veterans Affairs–affiliated doctors to write medical marijuana recommendations in states like California. It was rejected in the House.

And, last year, language very similar to the latest amendment made it through the House and Senate but was stripped in a last-minute move by Republican leaders in the House Appropriations Committee.

This time around, there seems to be more hope for the legislation co-authored by Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley.

"It has an excellent chance of passing the Senate, as it did last year," Tom Angell, chairman of the group Marijuana Majority, said via email.

"Unfortunately last year, the conference committee stripped the language when reconciling both chambers' bills, something we will be working extra hard to prevent this year," Angell said. "I think the increase in support in the Senate committee, plus the new state laws coming on board, is an indication we are well-positioned."

But support from key Republicans, including the administration of President Trump, who could veto the bill or exert pressure to strip the language again, is up in the air, Paul Armentano, deputy director of the pro-marijuana organization NORML, said via email. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in particular, has expressed disdain for states' medical marijuana legalization.

"Given the rising level of both public and political support in favor of medical cannabis access, particularly for veterans — coupled with the increasing lobbying efforts from veterans’ groups like the American Legion and AMVETS — I would not only anticipate members of the House and Senate to once again approve this reform legislation but also to do so in greater numbers than last year," Armentano said. "The question that remains, however, is whether high-ranking Republicans or the Trump administration will respect this vote, or will they turn their back on the needs of veterans and the will of the overwhelming majority of voters."

The Department of Veterans Affairs itself has long opposed medical cannabis for those who have fought for our country. It calls medical pot use among vets "a growing concern" and casts doubt on the science supporting weed's use for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). "There is no evidence at this time that marijuana is an effective treatment for PTSD," according to a VA fact sheet.

Huntington Beach's Rohrabacher said last year, "Americans have found relief in regulated medical marijuana. These include stroke victims, epileptics, veterans afflicted with post-traumatic stress and those suffering from the effects of chemotherapy, among many other health-related issues."
 

momofthegoons

Vapor Accessory Addict
Staff member
Doctors Offer Free Medical Pot Assessments for Veterans
Maureen Meehan October 18, 2017

There’s a group of doctors who are offering medical pot assessments for veterans. Although they’re not officially associated with the Department of Veterans Affairs, they seem to take the wellbeing of veterans seriously. Here’s the scoop.

Canna Care Docs
It’s no secret that the world of politics is rife with corruption and hypocrisy.

When Republican lawmakers aren’t challenging the basic human rights of everyone who is not a white, non-LGBT Christian man, they are gushing about their respect and admiration for the troops. And yet, they block congressional bills that would allow Veterans Affairs (VA) doctors from recommending medical marijuana.

But not all is hopeless.

Medical marijuana for U.S. veterans isn’t a dead end. There is a glimmer of light, and it’s taking the form of a collective called Canna Care Docs.

They are a group of physicians who help patients determine if medical marijuana is a viable option for them. And even better, they also offer free consultations for active and former military members.

Maggie Fauver, the mid-Atlantic operations manager with Canna Care Docs, said they have been hosting veterans’ events at all of the company’s locations for several years. It’s their way of showing appreciation for the country’s veterans. And also to help them get access to the health care services they need.

“Unfortunately for many veterans, their health can be negatively affected due to their deployment,” Fauver told the Baltimore Business Journal. “These veteran events are Canna Care Docs’ way of sincerely saying ‘Thank you for our freedom.'”

Canna Care typically charges a consultation fee of $200. But they waive this fee for veterans.

The group has also donated nearly half-a-million dollars worth of free medical recommendations to veterans, as well as other patients in financial straits.

“One of our core principles at Canna Care Docs is to ensure that no patient should stay in the black market for just financial reasons, and that principle has served us and [the patient] population very well,” said Kevin Kafka, founder and CEO of Canna Care Docs in a recent interview.

Final Hit: Doctors Offer Free Medical Pot Assessments for Veterans
In the weeks leading up to Veterans Day (November 11), Canna Care will be hosting a series of free certification events for veterans who seek medical cannabis to treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other common health issues, like traumatic brain injury, insomnia and chronic pain. There will also be medical pot assessments for veterans.

It is essential to keep in mind that 22 American vets commit suicide each day.

Most are suffering from PTSD, according to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs. And so it should come as no surprise that more veterans than ever are seeking medical marijuana as an alternative to addictive opioids to treat their service-related health issues.

In an effort to provide alternatives for veterans suffering from PTSD, the American Legion decided last August that it would advocate to remove marijuana from the list of Schedule I drugs. Just as a reminder, this is a list of drugs that the government has deemed harmful and possessing of no medical value. It also includes heroin and bath salts.

Veteran events in Maryland will be held October 28 and November 4 at the different Canna Care locations. Check out their website for a full list of these events. Also on the website is a list of other states where Canna Care operates.
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member


House Democrats Push VA Hard On Cannabis For Veterans

Vets are making the ‘cannabis for veterans’ question unavoidable for lawmakers, and they’re starting to act accordingly. Some of them, at least.

America’s never-ending war against an ism has had at least one unintended and welcome consequence: Nobody supports medical marijuana (especially cannabis for veterans) with more reliable solidarity than the 2.7 million men and women deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11.

According to a poll recently conducted by the American Legion, one of the more conservative organizations representing veterans’ interests, a full 100 percent of vets and vets’ caregivers aged 18 to 30 support “federally legalized medical cannabis.”

One hundred percent.

If you’ve spent any time around polls of any size, you’ll know how rare unanimous results are. Read the whole poll for yourself, but TL;DR: Conservative or liberal, old or young, military veterans are overwhelmingly in favor of legal medical marijuana—and veterans may use cannabis more than any other segment of the population.

Vets Use Weed
One in five vets surveyed by the poll are currently using cannabis to “alleviate a medical or physical condition,” according to the poll. That just so happens to be the exact percentage of vets who came home with PTSD, according to the VA. As has been reported many times, here and elsewhere, cannabis appears to have real potential in alleviating symptoms related to chronic pain and to PTSD.

Other surveys aren’t quite as unanimous.

But they’re even better.

They show the sizable political clout legalization efforts enjoy thanks to vets using weed to recover from the pities of war. One, conducted by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, found that 63 percent of War on Terror veterans of all ages want medical marijuana as a federally accepted treatment. That’s not 100 percent, but look: That same survey found that 96 percent of vets are registered to vote—and 88 percent voted in the last election.

All this to say that vets are making the cannabis question unavoidable for lawmakers, and they’re starting to act accordingly. Some of them, at least.

So far, major Democratic leadership, like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the same pair that appears to enjoy new power over President Donald Trump, have been content to sit back and let back-benchers do the work.

Cannabis For Veterans: Support From Below
On Thursday, Reps. Julia Brownley (D-CA) and Tim Walz (D-MN) appeared at a press conference called by the American Legion to announce the survey results. They repeated arguments they and other Democrats on the House Veterans Affairs Committee made in an Oct. 26 letter sent to Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin: Vets want weed. Vets need weed.

So what’s the holdup—and what’s the VA, notorious for handing out opiates to combat vets, going to do about it?

Brownley and her colleagues put the VA on notice.

They want either a commitment to allowing cannabis for veterans—something not every veteran in a medical-marijuana state enjoys, since not every state has PTSD as a qualified condition to receive a medical recommendation—or, failing that, they want the VA to explain why this can’t be done.

“VA’s pursuit of research into the impact of medical marijuana on the treatment of veterans diagnosed with PTSD who are also experiencing chronic pain is integral to the advancement of health care for veterans and the Nation,” the letter read. “We ask VA to respond, in kind, with a commitment to the development of VHA-led research into this issue. If VA is unable to make this commitment, we ask the VA to outline any and all external and internal barriers to the pursuit of the research to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs by November 14, 2017.”

This is something of a parliamentarian trick.

The Democrats know exactly why the VA can’t make that commitment: Weed is federally illegal. And so far, our very successful at legislating Republican-controlled Congress has successfully beat back every effort to make weed more readily available to former troops.

At the same time, some legalization advocates contend that the VA can change its internal policy on cannabis access and research independent of Congress.

To expect the VA to be the federal agency that goes rogue on the marijuana issue may be too much to hope for.

Shulkin has repeatedly said publicly that the VA cannot participate in programs that violate federal law.

“We are not going to be out there doing that research or prescribing these different medicinal preparations unless the law is changed,” he said in a June interview.

But, if the law changes, all that could change as well.

Cannabis For Veterans: Change From Above
The Trump administration’s stance on cannabis is starkly at odds with… well, everything.

More than half of Republicans support marijuana legalization—and a vast majority, 83 percent, are in favor of medical marijuana. Democratic leadership has a long list of grievances with Team Trump, but it seems like a stupidly simple winning move to start collecting Republican cosponsors en masse on a veterans-friendly marijuana bill.

That hasn’t happened yet. The good news is that this can’t go on forever. There’s simply too much popular support—and popular support from people who vote. Thank a vet for that. And for the lack of progress to date, blame a lawmaker.
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member
Kind of a half-ass move by the VA....very typical, CYA, bureaucracy. Too stupid for words.


VA Rolls Out New Medical Marijuana Policy For Vets

The new policy strongly urges doctors to discuss medical marijuana use with their patients.

There has always been some disconnect between veterans and medical marijuana.

Although there has been plenty of evidence to suggest cannabis would be beneficial to veterans for a wide array of ailments, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been reluctant to allow their doctors to formally recommend it as a treatment option. However, as the VA rolls out a new medical marijuana policy tor vets, it appears doctors are now permitted to at least discuss potential use with their patients.

A New Medical Marijuana Policy For Vets
No, VA doctors are still not permitted to recommend medicinal cannabis to their veteran patrons. However, under the new guidelines, doctors can discuss the possibility with their patients, who can then get a formal recommendation from another doctor.

Essentially, the VA is saying it will not be responsible for providing veterans with medical marijuana, but it won’t disallow patients from getting medical pot from private practitioners.

“Veterans must not be denied VHA services solely because they are participating in State-approved marijuana programs,” the new policy states.


However, the policy continues the VA’s longstanding “prohibition on recommending, making referrals to or completing forms and registering Veterans for participation in State-approved marijuana programs.”

Under the new set of guidelines, doctors are also required to closely monitor and record their patients’ use of medical marijuana.

“Clinical staff may discuss with Veterans relevant clinical information regarding marijuana and when this is discussed it must be documented in the Veteran’s medical record,” the policy states. “Providers need to make decisions to modify treatment plans based on marijuana use on a case-by-case basis, such decisions need to be made in partnership with the Veteran and must be based on concerns regarding Veteran health and safety.”

Final Hit: VA Rolls Out New Medical Marijuana Policy For Vets
While the new policy urges VA doctors to “discuss with the Veteran marijuana use, due to its clinical relevance to patient care, and discuss marijuana use with any Veterans requesting information about marijuana,” the department claims to still be in compliance with federal law, which still considers cannabis a Schedule I narcotic.

V.A. Secretary David Shulkin reiterated as much during a White House briefing back in May.


“Until time the federal law changes, we are not able to be able to prescribe medical marijuana for conditions that may be helpful,” he said.

However, the VA’s interpretation of the country’s medical marijuana laws could be considered misguided.

According to a 2003 Supreme Court ruling, doctors own the First Amendment right to recommend medical cannabis to patients, as long as they don’t actually give their patients the cannabis themselves. Under the current federal law, doctors are not permitted to prescribe patients marijuana like other drugs, but they are allowed to provide recommendations that allows patients to purchase it themselves at medical dispensaries.

So while Shulkin and the rest of the VA may cite federal law for their staunch policy, in reality, it’s their own doing. The brand new policy is set to run through the end of 2022. Hopefully, by then, veterans will have an even easier time getting their hands on the plant. But for now, this is a step in the right direction.
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member
TLDR: “They want us to believe these changes mean progress when all they are is an illusion of change, to pacify the screams for freedom those in charge don’t want us to have,”


Veterans groups react to VA’s shift in medical marijuana policy
Advocates seeking increased medical marijuana access for vets aren't convinced the Department of Veterans Affairs' new directive moves the needle for patients


By Bruce Kennedy, The Cannabist Staff

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs earlier this month issued a new directive for clinical programs that frees its doctors and pharmacists to discuss marijuana with military vets taking part in state-approved medical marijuana programs.

The directive, dated Dec. 8 and first reported by Forbes, changes policy to support “the Veteran – (health) provider relationship when discussing the use of marijuana and its impact on health, including Veteran-specific treatment plans.”

Doctors and pharmacists may discuss marijuana use with vets requesting information, according to the directive. Those clinical staff need to make decisions on a case-by-case basis when it comes to modifying any treatment plans based on the patient’s marijuana use, it says. As such decisions should be made “in partnership with the Veteran and must be based on concerns regarding Veteran health and safety.”

Two organizations that have demanded increased access to and research of medical marijuana for military veterans had mixed reaction to the VA’s move.

Related stories
The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans’ organization, which has been increasingly outspoken in support of medical marijuana research, applauded the new directive.

In a statement sent to The Cannabist, Legion National Commander Denise Rohan said the document helps to clarify access to VA clinical programs for vets taking part in state-approved medical cannabis programs.

“This updated policy will help encourage veterans using medical cannabis to more openly and fully discuss their healthcare options with VA medical providers with full reassurance that their VA benefits remain secure,” she said.

Leaders at Weed For Warriors Project, an organization that educates veterans on the benefits of medical marijuana while providing free cannabis to vets, were unconvinced.

While the group’s president Sean Kiernan welcomed the VA allowing their doctors their First Amendment rights, he questioned what the government might do with information on patients’ marijuana use.

According to the directive, when vets report marijuana use that information is to be entered into the “non-VA/herbal/Over the Counter medication section” of that patients electric medical record. It goes on to state: “Veterans must not be denied VHA services solely because they are participating in State-approved marijuana programs.”

“There are real ramifications to being classified as a cannabis user at the VA,” Kiernan said in an email to The Cannabist. “Your available medical options are curtailed once you are identified as someone with a substance abuse disorder, which is what you are classified as if you use cannabis. It’s not just pain meds that are cut off; it’s any medicine that has addiction issues.”

Kiernan is worried, for example, that a vet with attention deficit disorder who acknowledges using cannabis would be “out of luck, as the medicines used to treat ADD are addictive and that means the VA won’t prescribe them to a cannabis user.”

For The American Legion, the VA’s directive represents an “encouraging step in the right direction” for the groups continuing campaign for “evidence-based, complementary and alternative medicine,” Rohan said.

The Legion has been a vocal advocate for rescheduling marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act to permit research into its medical efficacy for treating vets suffering from chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other ailments affecting veterans. The group has also called on the VA to clear roadblocks that threaten the completion of a groundbreaking clinical study on the use of medical marijuana to treat PTSD in veterans.

Related: VA roadblock hinders study on cannabis as PTSD treatment for veterans, researcher says

In November, the Legion released a survey that found that 81 percent of veterans and 83 percent of caregivers support the federal legalization of cannabis to treat a physical or mental condition.

The new VA directive doesn’t budge on major sticking points in the medical marijuana debate, leaving Weed for Warriors’ Kiernan unimpressed.
For instance, the directive states that to comply with the CSA, which lists marijuana as a schedule I substance with no medical benefits, VA clinicians are prohibited from completing forms or registering veterans for participation in state-approved marijuana programs. The VA will also not provide or pay for medical marijuana for its patients, it says.

“They want us to believe these changes mean progress when all they are is an illusion of change, to pacify the screams for freedom those in charge don’t want us to have,” Kiernan said. “That is the liberty of free-choice; to have control over what we put into our body for medicine.”
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member

VA Clears The Air On Talking To Patients About Marijuana Use


“Don’t ask, don’t tell” is how many veterans have approached health care conversations about marijuana use with the doctors they see from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Worried that owning up to using the drug could jeopardize their VA benefits — even if they’re participating in a medical marijuana program approved by their state — veterans have often kept mum. That may be changing under a new directive from the Veterans Health Administration urging vets and their physicians to open up on the subject.

The new guidance directs VA clinical staff and pharmacists to discuss with veterans how their use of medical marijuana could interact with other medications or aspects of their care, including treatment for pain management or post-traumatic stress disorder.

The directive leaves in place a key prohibition: VA providers are still not permitted to refer veterans to state-approved medical marijuana programs, since the drug is illegal under federal law, with no accepted medical use.

That disconnect makes veterans wary, said Michael Krawitz, a disabled Air Force veteran in Ironto, Va., who takes oxycodone and marijuana to treat extensive injuries he suffered in a non-combat-related motorcycle accident while stationed in Guam in 1984.

“Vets are happy that there’s a policy, but they’re unnerved by that prohibition,” he said.

Krawitz, 55, is the executive director of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, an advocacy group. He has always been open with his VA doctors about his medical marijuana use and hasn’t suffered any negative consequences. But Krawitz said he has worked with veterans who have been kicked out of their VA pain management program after a positive drug test and told they couldn’t continue until they stopped using cannabis.

Such actions are usually misunderstandings that can be corrected, he said, but he suggests that the Veterans Health Administration should provide clear guidance to its staff about the new directive so veterans aren’t harmed if they admit to using marijuana.

Although the new guidance encourages communication about veterans’ use of marijuana, the agency’s position on the drug hasn’t changed, said Curtis Cashour, a VA spokesman.

Cashour referred to a quote from Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin at a White House briefing last May, who said he thought that among “some of the states that have put in appropriate controls [on the use of medical marijuana], there may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful. And we’re interested in looking at that and learning from that.” But until federal law changes, the VA is not “able to prescribe medical marijuana.”

Cashour declined to provide further information about the new directive.

Under federal law, marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it has no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Heroin and LSD are other Schedule 1 drugs. Doctors aren’t permitted to prescribe marijuana. Instead, in states that have legalized the use of medical marijuana, doctors may refer patients to state-approved programs that allow marijuana use in certain circumstances. (Doctors can, however, prescribe three drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration that are made of or similar to a synthetic form of THC, a chemical in marijuana.)

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have laws that allow people to use marijuana legally for medical purposes. Patients who have a disease or condition that’s approved for treatment with marijuana under the law are generally registered with the state and receive marijuana through state-regulated dispensaries or other facilities.

Moves by states to legalize marijuana for medical or recreational use have created a confusing landscape for patients to navigate. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last week he would rescind an Obama-era policy that discouraged federal prosecution for marijuana use in states where it is legal. That action has further clouded the issue.

Some consider caution a good thing. The accelerating trend of states approving marijuana for medical and recreational purposes may be getting ahead of the science to support it, they say.

A report released last January by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine examined more than 10,000 scientific abstracts about the health effects of marijuana and its chemical compounds on conditions ranging from epilepsy to glaucoma. The experts found conclusive evidence for a relatively limited number of conditions, including relief of chronic pain, nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy and muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis.

“I believe that there are chemicals in marijuana that have medicinal properties,” said Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society. “I would love to know what those are, what their medicinal properties are and what the dose should be.” But, he said, studies are extremely challenging to do because of restrictions in the United States on conducting research on Schedule 1 drugs.

No matter where the research stands, getting a complete medication or drug history should be standard procedure at any medical appointment, say medical providers.

In that respect, the guidance from the VA is a positive development.

“It’s absolutely critical that you know what your patients are taking, if only to be better able to assess what is going on,” said Dr J. Michael Bostwick, a psychiatrist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who has written on medical marijuana use.
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member
U.S. Dept. of Veteran Affairs Continues to Avoid Marijuana Research

A Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) letter made public Tuesday made clear that the department would not take a proactive stance on the value of medical marijuana in the United States. This is just the latest in a seemingly never-ending story between state-legal programs and federal law.

Though the VA has never been a bastion of hope on the medical marijuana front, many believed the department would come around and see the light following expanded state-level legalization around the United States. This is not the case.

A letter from VA Secretary David Shulkin to U.S. House Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN) from late December was made public Tuesday, detailing the frustrating ways in which the VA would skirt the responsibility of finding a non-addictive alternative to opioids.

“VA is committed to research and developing effective ways to help veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain conditions,” Shulkin penned to Walz. “However, federal law restricts VA’s ability to conduct research involving medical marijuana, or to refer veterans to such research projects.”

Though the VA does allow its doctors some leeway with respect to discussing medical marijuana with their veteran patients, the healthcare giant cemented that it will not conduct any research on cannabis as a possible therapeutic relief to countless soldiers who want an alternative to opioid painkillers, preferring to cling to the tired argument that they must abide by federal law and the archaic Controlled Substances Act. This also is not the case.



A 2003 ruling gave the VA MMJ leeway
A ruling at the federal level all the way back in 2003 declared that doctors in states with legal access to marijuana could not only discuss marijuana with their patients without fear of prosecution or other recourse but could also provide oral or written recommendations — a complete contradiction of what Secretary Shulkin has expressed in the past.

Then, after receiving enormous amounts of backlash from lawmakers and veterans alike, Secretary Shulkin “clarified” his stance at a Veterans’ Affairs committee hearing Wednesday, just a day after admonishing cannabis research.

“The VA has done research on marijuana but it has not been dispensing marijuana and testing its impact,” explained Shulkin to the committee. “It has been observational data analysis. The VA can do research on marijuana, but I said that we are restricted because it is a Class 1 substance, so we have to go through multiple agencies and it is very challenging to work our way through that process. We do have the ability to do it and I have said I am in favor of exploring anything that will help our veterans and relieve some of their sufferings.”

Shulkin again blamed Congress for the lack of VA medical marijuana research, adding, “If Congress made it easier to go through the process, it would probably happen faster.”

Advocates fill in the gaps for vets
Marijuana.com caught up with Seth Smith, the director of communications and government affairs for SC Veterans Alliance (SCVA), an organization that cultivates high-quality cannabis to supply their bustling retail shop in Santa Cruz and philanthropic efforts to support veterans in ways the VA simply will not.

We asked Smith about the VA’s refusal to conduct meaningful research on marijuana, to which he replied, “They could do whatever they want with cannabis as a healthcare institution unto themselves that does rely on federal funding, and they absolutely have more flexibility than the secretary would have you think.”

SCVA picks up the slack of the VA, holding monthly meetings as part of their Veteran Compassion Program, which veterans can attend to learn about medical marijuana and receive access to free medicine.

“Upwards of 80 percent of veterans are diagnosed with chronic pain and they’re being prescribed opioid painkillers by the VA,” said Smith, who served in the US Navy for six years as a cryptologic interpreter and airborne mission supervisor. “This is a huge issue in the veteran community.”

According to Smith, many veterans are reluctant to participate in the state’s newly modified medical marijuana program for fear of losing their VA benefits when they show up in some database of medical marijuana patients. SCVA serves between 750 and 800 veterans, making up nearly a third of their patient base.

The VA’s new medical marijuana directive states, “Veterans must not be denied VHA services solely because they are participating in State-approved marijuana programs,” but vets have their doubts.

“Federal officials have said this won’t be the case in states where cannabis is legal but I’m not sure veterans believe that. These veterans will continue having to operate in the shadows. A lot of VA doctors, especially younger doctors, would be more than happy to discuss medical marijuana as an option with their Veteran patients, but their hands are tied because of the VA administration’s policies,” Smith said. “The VA is refusing to engage in any research on the potential benefits of cannabis and it is a tragedy. We have 22 veterans a day committing suicide and the overwhelming majority of them are middle-aged, 55-years-old and up. We know that the fastest growing group of cannabis users are the baby boomers, those same folks.”

What will it take to create a change in the VA?
“I think we need all of the other veteran organizations as on board with medical marijuana as the American Legion has been, Smith explained.

In September, the American Legion, the largest veterans organization in the nation, chastised the VA for its refusal to support the first FDA-approved study of marijuana’s medical efficacy in the treatment of PTSD.

“Most of the congressmen and women who control how this issue will move in the near future are from states where cannabis is not readily available. As more and more states legalize medical marijuana, we will hit a critical mass where it can no longer be avoided. This year, we could see another half-dozen states legalize medical cannabis, and that would be huge as it would get us nearly to a de facto constitutional amendment with over two-thirds of the states having reformed their cannabis laws. We need that momentum to continue for at least a few more years.”

Even with Secretary Shulkin’s apparent 180-degree flip on medical marijuana research in less than a day, it remains to be seen if one of the largest healthcare institutions in a country where the majority of citizens have legal access to medical marijuana will do its part to end the opioid epidemic.
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member
Military veterans defy Jeff Sessions, fight for medical marijuana to kick opioid addiction
Army veteran CW4 Perry Parks reaches to lift a symbolic pill bottle that was placed in front of the White House by a group of medical marijuana supporters to raise awareness of opioid addiction.


Ryan Miller describes the year after his leg amputation as the best year of his life. He worked out. He traveled. He tanned. He was done with opioids.

After an explosively formed projectile destroyed his leg and damaged his stomach in Iraq, Miller had been caught in a vicious cycle of surgery and prescribed painkillers. The wounded Army infantry captain would have a surgery every few months, broken up by unsuccessful physical therapy.

"It wasn't just a pain, physical thing," Miller said. Physical dependence on opioids, coupled with pain from the injury, crushed Miller's spirit. "It just sucks. You feel like a prisoner."

The opioid crisis, which killed more than 42,000 Americans in 2016, continues to devastate the country. Doctors prescribe opioids for chronic pain, an ailment that is especially prevalent among military veterans. Of all the veterans returning from the Middle East, about 60 percent experience chronic pain.

A 2011 Veterans Affairs study found that veterans were twice as likely to die from an opioid overdose compared to the rest of the population. A 2014 study examined 2,500 soldiers after a deployment and found that 15 percent regularly used opioids. Many veterans also take benzodiazepines (antianxiety medication) for post-traumatic stress disorder. Benzodiazepines and opioids are both sedatives, and the combination is especially deadly.

The devastating toll opioids have taken on veterans has the VA scrambling to find alternative solutions. The VA enacted the Opioid Safety Initiative in 2013 and cut the number of veterans on opioids by almost a third. Although the initiative was enacted with good intentions, studies show the safest way to wean patients off opioids is in conjunction with alternative treatments. "This my-way-or-the-highway stuff is what really causes a lot of harm, and that's one of the things that I think we're running into a lot," said Michael Krawitz, an Air Force veteran and the executive director of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access.

VA clinics have implemented practices like yoga, meditation and acupuncture as alternatives to opioids. But activists like Nick Etten, a former Navy SEAL and the founder and director of the Veterans Cannabis Project, believe medical marijuana can help. "We see cannabis not as a gateway drug," Etten said. "We see it as an exit path off opiates."


Courtesy of Nick Etten
Nick Etten (L) and retired NFL offensive lineman Kyle Turley (R) discuss medical cannabis with Rep. Steve Scalise (C) in the Capitol.
Etten argues that chronic pain is the signature war wound of the past 16 years. "Veterans and a lot of patients across the country are finding, especially as it relates to chronic pain, that CBD-based products are working very effectively."

CBD is short for cannabidiol; CBD oil is a cannabis extract.

"They're obviously much safer and less addictive than anything in the realm of opiates," Etten said.

A 2014 JAMA study found significant decreases in opioid overdose deaths where states had legalized medical marijuana. On average, these states had a near-25 percent lower mortality rate from opioids than states without such laws, and this correlation strengthened the longer medical marijuana was legal. Despite the potential for medical cannabis to curb the opioid epidemic, Attorney General Jeff Sessions repealed a memo from the Obama era in January that allowed state's with legal marijuana to operate without federal interference.

The VA's opioid crisis echoes the nationwide pattern of suspect partnerships between painkiller companies and medical professionals. Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, donated $200,000 to the VA pain management team in 2001, and concerns about opioid addiction were labeled as "barriers" to appropriate care in 2003 by the VA. These 2003 guidelines called opioids "the most effective option" for many patients, and they "only rarely cause addiction."

The American Pain Foundation, an organization that received most of its funding from pharmaceutical companies and has fought tighter opioid regulation, furthered the VA's dangerous practices. The foundation created the Freedom from Pain campaign in 2006 and wrote the "chronic pain" chapter in The American Veterans and Service Members Survival Guide in 2007. The Senate Finance Committee began investigating the American Pain Foundation in 2012, and the foundation shut down days later.

Air Force veteran and medical marijuana advocate Krawitz experienced a non-combat motorcycle accident in Guam. His stomach was so damaged, he couldn't tolerate opioids well for the chronic pain from the accident. Medical cannabis is crucial for his pain relief, and he finds the gateway drug argument indefensible.

"Based on their line of thinking, if you parked your car illegally, it's going to cause you to rob banks, because most people who rob banks park their cars illegally," Krawitz said.

Prescription painkillers, however, have been linked to heroin use. For every five new heroin users, four started with prescription pills.

A comprehensive program is required
Miller considers himself fortunate because he had access to important resources that got him off opioids. Before his amputation, doctors at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio gave him a state-of-the-art orthotic brace. His doctors insisted he try the orthotic before resorting to surgery. He scoffed at the idea and just wanted to get rid of his leg once and for all, but it ended up being a turning point in his recovery.

Although he eventually needed the amputation, Miller credits his time with the orthotic for getting him off opioids. He could finally be active again. He had a support group recovering with him. He had doctors weaning him off prescription painkillers. "You need a comprehensive program," Miller said. "You need to give them every tool available." Nerve damage was still causing functionality issues, so despite being pain-free, off opioids and in good shape, the leg had to go.

Miller describes himself as a stubborn jock in high school who yelled at other players on the football team for smoking marijuana, and he laughs when he remembers endorsing alcohol. After avoiding marijuana most of his life, Miller got a medical card in California, at least initially, for the novelty of it. This was after his amputation and military service. Much to his surprise, he actually enjoyed how marijuana made him relax. He no longer feels the need for alcohol in social situations. The Staten Island native now lives in Oakland and has seen the power of medical marijuana for veterans firsthand.


Courtesy of Ryan Miller
An EFP destroyed Ryan Miller's leg in Iraq. A comprehensive program helped wean him off opioids.
Miller is working on two businesses tied to the marijuana boom. He firmly believes hemp and marijuana farming will help veteran employment. But it's the healing powers of marijuana that Miller feels is invaluable to veterans. He has become involved in an organization called Operation EVAC (founded by another Ryan Miller, who is a former Marine). The organization hosts meetings at various marijuana dispensaries, where veterans talk for an hour, then use medical marijuana and do guided meditation. EVAC meets in dispensaries in the Bay Area and Sacramento.

Many veterans come to EVAC after hitting rock bottom. Miller recalls meeting a veteran who had been on the streets before finding Operation EVAC. Miller doesn't know what started this specific veteran down a destructive path, but he knows many recovering addicts in EVAC who started on prescription painkillers. The veteran started each day by purchasing a bag of heroin and injecting the drugs. He was equally at peace with the two possible outcomes: getting high or death. The shame made him feel afraid to reach out to other veterans. When he finally reached out to EVAC, the group put him in rehab that very night.

EVAC's focus on discussion therapy and inclusion has kept the veteran off heroin, and he is now planning on reuniting with his daughter. Miller asked the former heroin addict what was appealing about EVAC after years of failed rehabilitation. The veteran told Miller he felt he wouldn't be judged at EVAC.

"Even now, thinking about that, hearing him say that in my head, I'm kind of choking up a little bit," Miller said. He thinks more groups like Operation EVAC would get veterans off narcotics and help curb the veteran suicide rate, which has been shown to worsen with opioid use. In fact, when he was first considering getting a medical card, many veterans told Miller they were suicidal before using cannabis. Miller uses marijuana before workouts because he feels less tired during and less sore after; he can only imagine how much this would have helped him when he was recovering from his leg injury.

The VA is stuck in a difficult position
Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, but the VA remains stuck in a difficult position because it is a federal entity and must abide by federal law, which still labels marijuana as a Schedule I drug (no medical use and high potential for abuse). For years the VA simply looked the other way; veterans using marijuana (even if done legally) didn't disclose this use, because they feared losing benefits. They could lose access to other medications if the VA thought they had a substance problem.

But new VA guidelines that came out in December are as close to endorsing medical marijuana as they can get without actually endorsing it.

The guidelines state that providers "are prohibited from completing forms or registering veterans for participation in a state-approved marijuana program." But they are supposed to "discuss with the veteran marijuana use, due to its clinical relevance to patient care, and discuss marijuana use with any veterans requesting information about marijuana."

The VA is required to document any disclosed marijuana use, but doing so won't force veterans to lose their benefits.

VA Secretary David Shulkin has admitted medical marijuana might help veterans, but he won't allow VA doctors to officially recommend marijuana until the federal law changes. And the stance from Attorney General Jeff Sessions — that regardless of state legalization efforts, the federal government should prosecute — could mean trouble for veterans using medical cannabis, memo be damned.



Fmr. DEA agent: Regulated cannabis works, it's good policy 12:38 PM ET Thu, 11 Jan 2018 | 02:38

"We certainly hope that they don't take action in that way," Etten said. "We, as veterans, with already limited and imperfect access at the state level, will have even less access."

The "limited and imperfect access" Etten is referring to lies in mixed messaging. Although the new guidelines allow veterans to disclose marijuana use to their VA provider, the VA still labels cannabis use as a substance-use disorder. Etten knows of cases where veterans have been taken off their other medications after testing positive for marijuana during a urinalysis. The VA is simultaneously condemning marijuana and telling veterans to be open about their marijuana use with VA providers, and many veterans simply avoid cannabis altogether because of the confusion.

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Almost half of veterans rely on the VA for health care. These veterans must rely on outside sources to get a medical marijuana recommendation, which isn't a very strenuous process. But veterans advocates argue that the longer the VA keeps a hands-off approach, the more veterans will suffer. Etten says many veterans are afraid to get medical cards, because they think being on some kind of government list will come back to haunt them, and Attorney General Sessions' statements intensify this fear.

The Veterans Cannabis Project wants clear guidelines protecting veterans who legally use cannabis. The group wants cannabis removed from the Schedule I list, and it wants more research on cannabis' medical potential.

Advocacy groups believe the VA has good intentions with the new guidelines. "I don't look at it as kicking the can down the road," Etten said. "Cannabis has become so politicized, it's difficult for the VA to do what it wants to do."

Despite the VA's checkered past regarding prescription drugs, the agency has taken responsible steps in recent years. The VA's Opioid Safety Initiative flagged providers with dangerous prescribing habits and started a prescription drug monitoring program to catch patients with multiple prescriptions.

"We all know [legal cannabis] is going to happen; it's just when. If this happens in a year, there will be people that will probably be alive in a couple years as opposed to dead." -Ryan Miller, Army infantry captain, wounded in Iraq
At the local level, Krawitz believes VA doctors are less likely to line up in support of the new VA policy that encourages discussion of medical marijuana. "Often, the [VA] doctors and the local staff perceive it very, very differently through a very different lens," he said. He argues that local VA doctors still associate social stigmas with cannabis.

The VA declined to comment or provide any of its medical professionals to answer questions.

Medical marijuana still needs help
The fight for medical and recreational marijuana has long stood counter to traditional conservative values. But as more veterans advocate for medical cannabis, the dynamic is shifting. Krawitz believes his dad, a "real conservative World War II vet," would support medical marijuana. As the opioid crisis worsens for veterans, coupled with a veteran suicide rate that is much higher than that of the general population, traditional politics are fading.

Miller says state Rep. Eric Nelson of Pennsylvania, an "old-school conservative" who has the 10 Commandments on his wall, is now eager to bring in medical marijuana throughout his state. The business of it appeals to his libertarian side, but it's the potential to curb the opioid crisis that really changed the Republican's mind. The American Legion, the nation's largest wartime veterans service organization, has voted twice in favor of medical marijuana access for veterans.

Dr. Edward Bilsky, the provost and chief academic officer at Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences, spent years educating medical professionals about opioids. With a background as an opioid pharmacologist neuroscientist, Bilsky has spent his career studying opioid receptors in the brain. He doesn't know if medical marijuana can treat chronic pain or curb opioid use, but he says the topic is in dire need of more research.

"This is the million-dollar question," Bilsky said. "There is, in the scientific literature, very few well-controlled and well-powered studies that have addressed this."

Through his advocacy work, he has met patients with chronic pain who use cannabis, and they report helpful effects such as better sleep and numbing the pain. There is not enough evidence, however, to call it a true analgesic. "We're just thinking that marijuana is all bad, but we need to do the studies. Until we have those studies in hand, we can't conclude strongly one way or the other," Bilsky said.

He understands cannabis has detrimental side effects on developing brains, such as short-term memory loss and learning impairment. But until there is more research on its medical potential, physicians won't know if it has positive uses for specific medical conditions.

For advocates, every day that goes by without further research and federal immunity for veteran cannabis use hurts.

Despite Sessions' threats, states are continuing to support legal cannabis, and there has been bipartisan disapproval of Sessions' stance. The day when veterans don't have to worry about having a medical card or talking to their provider about marijuana might soon be over.

"We all know it's going to happen; it's just when," Miller said. "If this happens in a year, there will be people that will probably be alive in a couple years as opposed to dead."
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member
"esults of a nationwide survey of veterans and caregivers conducted in Oct. 2017. The survey found that 82 percent of all veterans and caregivers want to have cannabis available as a federally legal treatment. 92 percent support research into medical cannabis, and 1 in 5 veterans report using cannabis to treat their medical or physical conditions."

Those are huge numbers and keep in mind that the military and its vets are generally a very conservative organization.


How the American Legion Became a Medical Cannabis Advocate


Denise Rohan, the national commander of the American Legion, is scheduled to testify before a joint session of the House and Senate Committees on Veterans Affairs today to discuss what Congress and the Trump administration can do to improve veterans’ benefits. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is also expected to testify.


'The American Legion is all about making sure that veterans are taken care of. We have to find replacements for the opioid epidemic.'
Denise Rohan, national commander, American Legion
Last week, as a prelude to that testimony, Rohan met the media at a National Press Club discussion about better ways to deliver benefits to the country’s more than 20 million veterans. In a question and answer session following the formal presentation, Leafly asked Rohan about the stance of the American Legion on medical cannabis.

“The American Legion is all about making sure that veterans are taken care of,” she said. “We have to find replacements for the opioid epidemic that we have in this nation.”

With that, she deferred to Louis Celli, the American Legion’s National Director of Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation. Celli talked about the results of a nationwide survey of veterans and caregivers conducted in Oct. 2017. The survey found that 82 percent of all veterans and caregivers want to have cannabis available as a federally legal treatment. 92 percent support research into medical cannabis, and 1 in 5 veterans report using cannabis to treat their medical or physical conditions.

(Results of that survey were revealed in a press conference on the Hill in November, featuring a bipartisan group of congressmen speaking in support of legalizing medical marijuana, including Minnesota Democratic Congressman Tim Walz, the ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, and Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, who has sponsored a bill to reschedule cannabis.)

“We are calling for additional research into cannabis to find what it may help,” Celli told Leafly. “Whether it is for PTSD or inflammation or pain or convulsions—whatever it is that that might be good for. We just need to know that the American government is focused on trying to find cures for not only veterans but for all Americans. If cannabis, which is a drug, is something that can help, they have to do the research. And right now they can’t do it.”


RELATED STORY
PTSD, Insomnia, and Cannabis: What’s the Evidence Say?

How the Legion Found Its Voice
In the past few years, the American Legion has become an increasingly powerful voice advocating for the rights of veterans when it comes to medical cannabis.

During their national convention in Aug. 2016, the organization released their first medical marijuana-related resolution, which called for the removal of cannabis from Schedule I. The resolution advocated reclassifying it as a drug with potential medical value.

When the American Legion speaks on an issue, officials in Washington DC listen.
One year later, the Legion called on the federal government to allow healthcare providers with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to discuss medical cannabis as a treatment option with veterans in states where medical cannabis is legal.

During a meeting of the Legion’s Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission in 2017, former American Legion National Commander Bill Detweiler—chairman of the Legion’s Traumatic Brain Injury/Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Ad Hoc Committee—said the Legion would continue to push for alternative treatments for PTSD.

“We are looking to see what we can do as an organization to urge the Veterans Administration, to urge the military and … to get congressional funding to find the funds necessary to do the studies [on alternative treatments], even though the studies may be hard,” Detweiler said at the time. “Let’s take a look at things that are available that maybe are not used but could be used—not to hurt somebody, but to maybe give them a better quality of life. On our end, that’s what we’re all about.”

The American Legion was not the only veterans’ group advocating on the issue, but the organization’s institutional voice—and its considerable membership and reputation—seemed to make a difference. In Dec. 2017, the Veterans Administration issued a directive that allowed VA doctors to discuss medical cannabis use with veterans in states where it is legal. VA healthcare providers may discuss, but not recommend. Veterans who wish to include medical cannabis in their personal healthcare program must obtain a recommendation from a healthcare provider outside the VA system, which adds a separate and sometimes substantial cost.


RELATED STORY
Veterans Are Key as Surge of States OK Cannabis for PTSD

Change Driven by Member Veterans
The American Legion does not, as a rule, take radical positions on public policy. Their recent resolutions, as well as the willingness of their leaders to talk about the issue, may be another indication of how mainstream medical marijuana has become—and how important the issue is to America’s veterans.

How did the Legion move to embrace a more open position on medical cannabis?

Louis Celli said the organization’s push for more research came about because of the many anecdotal stories they heard from veterans using cannabis. He said that use of medical cannabis should be “grounded and founded” in scientific research the federal government supports. But even that relatively mild position hasn’t come without criticism from some members. Comments on a section of the American Legion website devoted to their work on medical marijuana show much support, along with comments about marijuana being a gateway drug–and worse.

“We are not really getting pushback from our decision to support medical marijuana,” Celli told Leafly. “But veterans using medical marijuana in states where it is legal are participating in those programs with a feeling of inner guilt, because they were raised through a law enforcement or law abiding type of environment that said cannabis was bad and immoral,” he said. “Now they are finding that it is a valid treatment for them and they are having trouble reconciling that.”


RELATED STORY
How War & Cannabis Created the Wellness Soldier

A Personal Connection
This will continue to be a big issue for the Legion, but also a personal one for National Commander Denise Rohan. After her presentation, Rohan, who hails from Wisconsin, told Leafly about a Wisconsin veteran who overdosed from the opioids that were prescribed for him.

She hopes that the voices of the more than 2 million American Legion members will make a difference in opening up more research into the medical use of cannabis for veterans. “Our membership numbers are so important,” she said. “They have got to mean something in this fight against the opioid crisis. Let’s get marijuana tested to find out if it is one of the answers.”

Rohan added that the American Legion has formed a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) team to examine the emerging solutions for veterans managing the condition. “Marijuana could be one of them,” she said. “We are just saying, ‘Let us do a study.’”

PTSD Studies: Already Underway
A number of PTSD-and-cannabis studies are currently underway, although it remains relatively difficult to obtain approval for such studies in the United States.

Dr. Sue Sisley, a renowned PTSD researcher and frequent speaker at medical marijuana conferences, has developed the first clinical research on medical marijuana for PTSD with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). Working with a $2.2 million grant from the state of Colorado—financed by the state’s cannabis tax revenue—Sisley’s group is evaluating the relative efficacy of four different potencies of cannabis for veterans managing PTSD. As of Feb. 12, 42 veterans have enrolled in her clinical trial at the Scottsdale Research Institute in Arizona to evaluate four different potencies of cannabis for symptoms of PTSD. By 2020, her study group expects to go to a phase of research resulting in product going to market.

In Canada, researchers at the University of British Columbia and the licensed cannabis producer Tilray began conducting a clinical trial to evaluate the therapeutic potential of medical cannabis for PTSD in 2016. The study is scheduled to conclude in the spring of 2018, with results published thereafter. (Full disclosure: Tilray and Leafly are separate companies, but both are owned by the private equity firm Privateer Holdings.)

In Israel, the pioneering cannabis researcher Raphael Mechoulam led a limited study of ten patients with chronic PTSD. That study, published in 2014, found that a twice-daily dose of 5 mg of THC “caused a statistically significant improvement in global symptom severity, sleep quality, frequency of nightmares, and PTSD hyperarousal symptoms.”
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member

Leaked emails show VA officials wanted to push cannabis for veterans but feared Trump administration wouldn't agree


In recent months Congress has debated and argued with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) about providing medical marijuana to former soldiers. But it turns out the Department wasn't their actual obstacle, writes Joseph Misulonas.

Recently leaked emails show that high-ranking officials in the VA wanted to provide medical marijuana to veterans, but feared the Trump administration wouldn't go along with it. In one email Jake Leinenkugel, the senior White House advisor for VA issues, wrote about the possibility of allowing veterans to use medicinal cannabis, and wrote that it is the "Right Thing to Do." Scott R. Blackburn, the then interim deputy secretary for the VA, wrote back, "I would think we would all be for this. You would know better than I would, but I would think the resistance might come from the DOJ/administration. I agree with you that it is the right thing to do."

Despite pressure from veterans' groups and politicians, the VA continued to institute policies that would prevent veterans from gaining access to medicinal cannabis even in states where it was legal. But it appears those policies were not necessarily the choice of the VA, but rather the position they chose based on pressure from the Trump administration.

The fact that Blackburn specifically cites the DOJ as a concern perhaps indicates that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a well-known anti-marijuana crusader, was one of the chief reasons the VA continued their policies.

However, these problems may be a thing of the past. The Senate recently passed a bill funding the department for 2019 that included a provision allowing VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana for veterans in states where it is legal. Although it's not clear yet if that provision will make it into the final version of the bill that needs to pass both the House and Senate.
 

momofthegoons

Vapor Accessory Addict
Staff member
Senators want to give VA doctors green light to recommend marijuana

Two Democratic Senators introduced new legislation Wednesday that would allow VA doctors to prescribe cannabis to veterans in states that have medical marijuana programs.

The Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, introduced by Sens. Bill Nelson (Fla.) and Brian Schatz (Hawaii), would expand medical cannabis access to veterans who live with chronic pain, post-traumatic stress (PTS), and other service-connected medical ailments.

“Federal law prohibits VA doctors from prescribing or recommending medical marijuana to veterans,” Nelson said in a statement. “This legislation will allow veterans in Florida and elsewhere the same access to legitimately prescribed medication, just as any other patient in those 31 states would have.”

The bill would urge the VA to conduct research on how marijuana can be used for pain and opioid abuse, an unfortunately common cause of death for veterans.

A wide range of organizations supports this bill including the American Academy of Pain Medicine, Veterans Cannabis Project, American for Safe Access, Veterans Cannabis Coalition, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), and others.

Supporters of the bill say it would bring veterans who use cannabis back on the right side of the law.

“It is unconscionable that these brave individuals who protect our nation's freedoms would be treated as criminals when they return home just for treating their medical ailments with a safe and effective option,” adds Justin Strekal, Political Director of NORML.

Veterans and the military have been on the front lines of American social change, he says, shifting public insights on issues of racial, gender and sexual equality.

“The therapeutic use of cannabis by veterans follows this trend and members of Congress should follow their lead and pass the veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act,” says Strekal.

"We believe this bill recognizes and works to end the absurd and destructive catch-22 that veterans who medicate with cannabis find themselves in—where the federal government criminalizes them for possession, hinders them in talking to their primary care VA doctors about cannabis, and blocks nearly all research into cannabis’ medical efficacy," adds Eric Goepel, an Army veteran who is the founder and CEO of the Veterans Cannabis Coalition, a nonprofit organization that advocates for expansion of marijuana to veterans.

A similar bill, H.R. 1820—The Veterans Equal Access Act—is pending in the House.

The proposed legislation comes about a week after a bipartisan group of federal lawmakers pressed VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to research marijuana for veterans.




Photo by Glen Stubbe/Minneapolis Star Tribune



“We believe the VA has the authority, ability, and capacity to carry out such a study,” reads the letter, which is signed by Reps. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) and Tim Walz (D-Minn.), and Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) “Many of our nation’s veterans already use medicinal cannabis, and they deserve to have full knowledge of the potential benefits and side effects of this alternative therapy.”

And the letter is signed by members of Congress who could get the job done.

Roe is the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and a medical doctor, while Walz is the committee’s ranking member. Sullivan is a Marine Corps veteran who sits on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, of which Tester is the highest ranking Democrat.

“If (Wilkie) is willing to at least consider conducting research or maybe drawing up some proposals, anything would be a step in the right direction,” says Goepel. “In this political climate there aren’t a lot of easy wins, so a lot of this is process work,” he said of the joint letter.

But Wilkie’s thoughts on marijuana remain unknown as he has yet to publicly voice his opinion on cannabis as a treatment for veterans since taking charge of the VA last month.

Roe and Walz introduced H.R. 5520 last April, the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act, which has the distinction of being the only piece of marijuana reform legislation to ever make it out of committee but has yet to be scheduled for a vote.

“Under Republican Congressional leadership, they have refused to advance H.R. 5520,” says Strekal. “This legislation was authored by Chairman Roe, it was heard in committee, it was passed favorably out of committee and only Congressional process, which is run by Republican leadership in the House, is preventing it from moving to the floor.”
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member


Congress removes medical marijuana protections for veterans from new funding bill


A proposal to allow military veterans to use medical marijuana in states where it is legal was killed by Congress. In June, the Senate passed a bill to fund the Department of Veterans Affairs that included an amendment that would not allow the VA to punish doctors for recommending medical marijuana, writes Joseph Misulonas.

When the House passed their own bill to fund the VA, they did not include the amendment to prevent punishing doctors. However, there was still hope that a committee to create a final bill combining the bills passed by the House and Senate would include the amendment.

However yesterday Congress released the final version of the bill, and the amendment allowing doctors to recommend medical marijuana was removed.

“Denying veterans the care they need by the doctors they trust is shameful,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) told Marijuana Moment. “The Senate passed this amendment. It has broad bipartisan support in the House. This should have been a no brainer. Yet, Republican leadership has once again stymied progress toward fair and equal treatment for our veterans. Their continued neglect of commonsense and the will of the American people is a disgrace.”

Other Democrats agreed with Blumenauer.

“Our veterans put their lives on the line for our country, and many come home dealing with visible and invisible wounds,” Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) said. “To continue limiting their access to quality healthcare through the VA is a disservice to them and the sacrifices they’ve made.”

So it appears the battle for medical protections for veterans is over for next year. But perhaps if Democrats can retake the House or Senate in the November midterms, these protections will finally become law.
 

CarolKing

Always in search of the perfect vaporizer
This guy is a local hero and I can’t give him enough accolades.


Veterans advocates use cannabis to reduce suicide, PTSD
upload_2018-9-12_20-57-1.jpeg

Jul 6, 2018 · Patrick Seifert, holding flag, created Twenty 22MAny, a nonprofit that helps veterans with PTSD ... But he does have PTSD due to sexual abuse as a child, and said cannabis has been able to ...


With an eye on veterans, Olympia cannabis activist welcomes Hempfest outpost | The Spokesman-Review
Jan 13, 2017 · E., site of the former Rainier Xpress medical marijuana dispensary owned by Patrick Seifert. ... veteran suicide rate, the group Twenty 22 Many (“twenty-two too many”) supports veterans ...
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member
To honor veterans, Congress must reform federal marijuana laws




© Getty Images
This Veterans Day, you will likely read and hear many political leaders paying lip service to honor our nation's veterans.

But as they list out their policy prescriptions, one that directly impacts nearly one-in-four veterans will be suspiciously absent: marijuana.

According to survey data compiled by the American Legion, we now know that 22 percent of veterans self-report consuming marijuana to alleviate symptoms stemming from a physical or mental ailment.

Post-traumatic stress, chronic pain and other medical issues can be a matter of life or death. Moreover, failure of VA policy to allow physicians to openly talk about cannabis or recommend it has a deleterious effect on the doctor-patient relationship and on the well-being of our veterans.

There are two pieces of legislation currently pending in Congress that would end this needless discrimination: the Veterans Equal Access Act in the House and The Veterans Medical Marijuana and Safe Harbor Act in the Senate.

These reforms are absolutely necessary given the alarming rates of opioid addiction and suicide by veterans. According to data released this year by the Department of Veterans Affairs, 20 former servicemen and women take their lives each day, while a 2011 report revealed that veterans are twice as likely to die from an opioid overdose compared to the civilian population.

Twice in the 115th Congress, a majority of lawmakers voted to facilitate veterans’ access to medical cannabis by including key provisions in the fiscal 2017 and fiscal 2018 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bills. However, Republicans on the Appropriations Conference Committee twice elected to remove the language from the bill during concurrence votes.

Congressional intransigence on this issue by the Republican party defies common sense. Veterans acknowledge using marijuana at rates far higher than the general population and nearly half of them describe their use as self-medicating, according data published earlier this year in the journal "Addictive Behaviors." Further, according to nationwide survey data compiled by The American Legion, 39 percent of respondents affirm that they "know a veteran" who is using the plant medicinally.

ccording to a 2017 review of over 10,000 studies by the National Academy of Sciences, “In adults with chronic pain, patients who were treated with cannabis … are more likely to experience a clinically significant reduction in pain symptoms. … There is conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis and cannabinoids are effective for the treatment for chronic pain in adults.”

Other studies have shown that cannabis and its components can mitigate symptoms of PTSD and night terrors. Medical cannabis access is also consistently shown to be associated with reduced levels of opioid abuse and opioid-related mortality — two phenomena that have hit the veterans’ community especially hard.

Scientific evidence in support of legal medical marijuana aside, it is politically beneficial for elected officials to act on reform. Public support roundly approves medical cannabis access.

According to nationwide polling data compiled earlier this year by Quinnipiac University, 91 percent of Americans — including eight out of ten of self-identified Republican voters — “support” allowing adults to use cannabis when it is recommended by their physician.

This Veterans Day, federal lawmakers would be wise to end the criminalization of healthcare by veterans. Addressing the senseless federal prohibition of marijuana and allowing it’s therapeutic use to be legally accessed by the tens-thousands of veterans who are already consuming it for such purposes makes sense from a moral, compassionate, political and fiscal perspective.

The fact is that these men and women put on the uniform to defend this nation’s freedoms and it is the height of hypocrisy that they return as civilians only to be criminals in the eyes of the state as they seek health care.
 

ataxian

In a BLACK HOLE!
To honor veterans, Congress must reform federal marijuana laws




© Getty Images
This Veterans Day, you will likely read and hear many political leaders paying lip service to honor our nation's veterans.

But as they list out their policy prescriptions, one that directly impacts nearly one-in-four veterans will be suspiciously absent: marijuana.

According to survey data compiled by the American Legion, we now know that 22 percent of veterans self-report consuming marijuana to alleviate symptoms stemming from a physical or mental ailment.

Post-traumatic stress, chronic pain and other medical issues can be a matter of life or death. Moreover, failure of VA policy to allow physicians to openly talk about cannabis or recommend it has a deleterious effect on the doctor-patient relationship and on the well-being of our veterans.

There are two pieces of legislation currently pending in Congress that would end this needless discrimination: the Veterans Equal Access Act in the House and The Veterans Medical Marijuana and Safe Harbor Act in the Senate.

These reforms are absolutely necessary given the alarming rates of opioid addiction and suicide by veterans. According to data released this year by the Department of Veterans Affairs, 20 former servicemen and women take their lives each day, while a 2011 report revealed that veterans are twice as likely to die from an opioid overdose compared to the civilian population.

Twice in the 115th Congress, a majority of lawmakers voted to facilitate veterans’ access to medical cannabis by including key provisions in the fiscal 2017 and fiscal 2018 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bills. However, Republicans on the Appropriations Conference Committee twice elected to remove the language from the bill during concurrence votes.

Congressional intransigence on this issue by the Republican party defies common sense. Veterans acknowledge using marijuana at rates far higher than the general population and nearly half of them describe their use as self-medicating, according data published earlier this year in the journal "Addictive Behaviors." Further, according to nationwide survey data compiled by The American Legion, 39 percent of respondents affirm that they "know a veteran" who is using the plant medicinally.

ccording to a 2017 review of over 10,000 studies by the National Academy of Sciences, “In adults with chronic pain, patients who were treated with cannabis … are more likely to experience a clinically significant reduction in pain symptoms. … There is conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis and cannabinoids are effective for the treatment for chronic pain in adults.”

Other studies have shown that cannabis and its components can mitigate symptoms of PTSD and night terrors. Medical cannabis access is also consistently shown to be associated with reduced levels of opioid abuse and opioid-related mortality — two phenomena that have hit the veterans’ community especially hard.

Scientific evidence in support of legal medical marijuana aside, it is politically beneficial for elected officials to act on reform. Public support roundly approves medical cannabis access.

According to nationwide polling data compiled earlier this year by Quinnipiac University, 91 percent of Americans — including eight out of ten of self-identified Republican voters — “support” allowing adults to use cannabis when it is recommended by their physician.

This Veterans Day, federal lawmakers would be wise to end the criminalization of healthcare by veterans. Addressing the senseless federal prohibition of marijuana and allowing it’s therapeutic use to be legally accessed by the tens-thousands of veterans who are already consuming it for such purposes makes sense from a moral, compassionate, political and fiscal perspective.

The fact is that these men and women put on the uniform to defend this nation’s freedoms and it is the height of hypocrisy that they return as civilians only to be criminals in the eyes of the state as they seek health care.
Some my relatives were in the MILITARY!
@Baron23 why R they PRO-PRESIDENT?
Tell me please?
I don’t get it?
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member
Some my relatives were in the MILITARY!
@Baron23 why R they PRO-PRESIDENT?
Tell me please?
I don’t get it?
Unlike many people in our society at large, mil vets tend to still strongly support the electoral process and the peaceful transference of power, whether your side won or lost.

They have an understanding of the civics of the USA that appears to not be grasped by many Americans today.
 

ataxian

In a BLACK HOLE!
Unlike many people in our society at large, mil vets tend to still strongly support the electoral process and the peaceful transference of power, whether your side won or lost.

They have an understanding of the civics of the USA that appears to not be grasped by many Americans today.
Don’t U think he should have gone and should show respect?
 

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